Fraud or theft might have cost ETB €148,000

A fraud or theft in relation to procurement at Mid-West training centres might have cost an education and training board €150,000.

Seamus McCarthy, Comptroller and Auditor General: said loss incurred by ETB is estimated at €148,000.

Gardaí were alerted to the matter after it was identified by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) last March.

The exact nature of the incident is not clear, but involves “a suspected fraud/theft arising in the procurement function, localised to their two training centres”, according to a statement on the system of internal control, in LCETB’s 2015 financial statement.

The statement, signed off by board chairman, Sean McMahon, before Christmas, says that the ETB has reviewed and strengthened its control procedures around procurement, as a result.

“The matter has been referred to An Garda Síochána and an investigation is ongoing,” it said.

The ETB is also seeking recovery, from its insurers, of the amounts it believes to have been misappropriated. By mid-December, it had calculated the extent of the verified loss as €75,641, but the board had concerns in relation to a further €72,276.

In an accompanying report to the Oireachtas, included in the 2015 financial statement, Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Seamus McCarthy, said the loss incurred by a case of suspected fraud was estimated at €148,000.

LCETB has two main training centres: at Raheen, in Limerick, and in Shannon, Co Clare, with further education and training also provided at five other centres. The training centres had 2,700 participants on courses in 2015, with non-staff operations costs of €2.2m and capital spending of €710,000.

The ETB spent €129.5m in 2015 to provide services for 40,000 learners in 18 schools and colleges, and at further education and training centres, and on part-time and night classes.

The statement on internal controls also discloses that procedures around the administration of post-Leaving Certificate courses have been strengthened, after it was found that one school received funding and teaching staff above its entitlement, across two school years.

After identifying what, it said, were a number of control deficiencies in the operation of PLC courses at the school, last October, the ETB calculated that additional grants, totalling €5,000, were provided.

The equivalent of three whole-time staff were also provided over the academic years, from September 2014 to summer 2016, at a cost of over €113,000.

LCETB received funding for 75 whole-time equivalent teachers for those two school years, or one teacher for every 19 of the 1,418 student places on PLC courses for which it was approved.

The ETB said it provided places for more PLC students than was covered by its staffing allocations, for the years concerned, and worked within the allocation of grants for the approved number of places.

As with many other ETBs, the board said its 2015 financial statements were delayed by work associated with the 2013 amalgamation of three former vocational education committees.

Its 2016, statements were in line to be submitted for audit to the C&AG’s office by the end of last year, and it intended to submit last year’s financial statements, in line with statutory deadlines.

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